Traditional whale hunters in the Alaskan north found a century-old harpoon fragment in a bowhead whale, suggesting that the whale may have been 130 years old.
The whale was killed as part of a traditional Eskimo hunt, carried out under strict regulations. The weapon fragment came from an exploding cannister that hit the whale, but failed to kill it. After the whale was killed with a similar modern device last month, the piece was found when the whale was butchered.
The weapon fragment was unusual enough to date the time the whale was first shot, sometime between 1885 and 1895. The whale survived more than 100 years with the weapon fragment near it's shoulder blade.
Scientists have had trouble aging whales, so this finding is an important advance. Too bad the "Rutherford B. Hayes" whale had to be shot again to reveal this unpleasant reminder of an old whale hunt that it carried for more than 100 years.
Bowhead whales are endangered, with the Alaskan population doing better than anywhere else in the world. Subsistence hunting of a few whales each year is not expected to harm the populations.